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Frog Orchid

Coeloglossum viride

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Orchidaceae (Orchid)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, grassland, heathland, marshes, meadows, mountains, roadsides, sand dunes, seaside, woodland.

Green, 5 petals
The Frog Orchid (Coeloglossum viride) is a distinctive and intriguing wildflower found in the grasslands and meadows of the UK. Its flowers are small and greenish, often tinged with shades of red or brown, blending seamlessly with its natural surroundings. The flowers are borne in dense, spike-like clusters atop a slender stem, each one featuring a uniquely shaped labellum that resembles a frog's limbs, which gives the orchid its common name. Despite its subtle appearance, the Frog Orchid's flowers exhibit a delicate beauty and intricate structure that make it a fascinating subject for botanists and wildflower enthusiasts alike. Blooming from late spring to early summer, these flowers play a crucial role in the ecosystem, attracting a variety of pollinators and contributing to the biodiversity of their habitats.
The fruit of the Frog Orchid is a slender, elongated capsule that develops following the plant's flowering period. These capsules, which appear from late summer to early autumn, contain numerous tiny seeds, each one equipped with the potential to grow into a new orchid under suitable conditions. The seeds are incredibly small and lightweight, allowing them to be dispersed by the wind over considerable distances. This method of seed dispersal is crucial for the propagation of the species, helping to ensure that new plants can establish themselves in various locations within the orchid's preferred habitats of grasslands and meadows. The fruiting stage of the Frog Orchid, while less visually striking than its flowering counterpart, is an essential phase in the life cycle of this fascinating wildflower, contributing to its ongoing survival and distribution across the UK.
The leaves of the Frog Orchid are modest yet vital components of this intriguing wildflower. They are typically lanceolate to ovate in shape, displaying a soft green hue that blends seamlessly with the surrounding vegetation. The leaves are primarily basal, forming a rosette at the base of the stem, although a few smaller leaves may also be found along the stem itself. These leaves are smooth and slightly glossy, with a notable central vein running along their length. The basal leaves provide the plant with the necessary photosynthetic surface to gather energy and sustain growth, especially during its active growing season in spring and early summer. Their unassuming appearance can make the Frog Orchid easy to overlook when not in bloom, but the leaves play a critical role in the overall health and development of the plant, ensuring it can flower, fruit, and continue its lifecycle in the diverse grasslands and meadows of the UK.
The Frog Orchid is not particularly known for its fragrance. Unlike some other orchid species that are famed for their sweet or strong scents, the Frog Orchid's flowers typically emit a very faint, if any, fragrance. This subtlety aligns with the orchid's overall inconspicuous nature, with its small, greenish flowers blending into the grasslands and meadows where it grows. The primary attractants for pollinators are the flower's visual appearance and nectar, rather than its scent. While the lack of a strong fragrance means it may not be as immediately noticeable as some other wildflowers, the Frog Orchid remains a fascinating and valuable component of its natural habitat, contributing to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the areas where it is found.
Other Names:
Green-flowered Orchid, Long-bract Frog Orchid, Long-bracted Green Orchid, Long-bracted Orchid.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


The frog orchid (Coeloglossum viride) is a species of orchid native to Europe and North America. It is a small, terrestrial orchid that grows in damp, shady places. The flowers are greenish-yellow and have a lip that is shaped like a frog, which gives the plant its common name. The flowers typically bloom in the late spring or early summer. The species is considered endangered in some areas due to habitat loss and collection for horticultural use.


The Frog Orchid, scientifically known as Coeloglossum viride, is a fascinating plant that can be found in many parts of Europe, North America, and Asia. As its name suggests, this orchid is named for its distinctive green color and its resemblance to a frog's head.

Appearance and Habitat

The Frog Orchid typically grows to a height of between 10 and 30 cm, with a single stem and a cluster of small, green flowers at the top. The flowers themselves are only about 1 cm in size, with a distinctive shape that looks like the head of a frog. The petals are green and yellow, while the lip is a darker green with a white center.

The Frog Orchid prefers to grow in damp, grassy areas such as meadows, heaths, and woodland clearings. It can also be found in marshy areas and along riverbanks. It typically flowers in late spring and early summer, and its green color helps it blend in with the surrounding foliage.

Ecology and Reproduction

The Frog Orchid is an interesting plant from an ecological perspective because it is self-fertile, meaning it can produce seeds without the need for pollinators. This is useful in environments where there are few insects available to pollinate the flowers.

However, the Frog Orchid can also be pollinated by insects such as bees and flies, which are attracted to the flowers by their color and scent. The flowers produce a sweet, musky odor that is particularly attractive to male hoverflies, which mistake the flower for a female hoverfly and attempt to mate with it. In doing so, they inadvertently transfer pollen from one flower to another, allowing for cross-pollination and the exchange of genetic material.

Conservation Status

The Frog Orchid is considered a rare plant in many parts of its range and is protected by law in some countries. Its decline in numbers is largely due to habitat loss, as grasslands and other areas where it grows are increasingly being converted into agricultural land or developed for human use.

Efforts are underway in some regions to conserve the Frog Orchid and its habitat. For example, in the UK, the plant is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, and its populations are monitored and managed by conservation organizations.

In conclusion, the Frog Orchid is a fascinating plant with a unique appearance and ecology. Its distinctive green color and frog-like appearance make it easy to identify in the wild, and its self-fertile nature and relationship with pollinators make it an important part of many ecosystems. However, its declining numbers are a cause for concern, and conservation efforts are necessary to ensure its continued survival.

Additional Information about the Frog Orchid

One interesting fact about the Frog Orchid is that it is a mycoheterotrophic plant, meaning that it obtains its nutrients from a fungus that is associated with the roots of nearby trees. This allows the orchid to survive in nutrient-poor environments where other plants would struggle to grow.

Another interesting feature of the Frog Orchid is its ability to adapt to different growing conditions. In some parts of its range, the plant has been found growing in alkaline soils, while in others it is found in acidic soils. This adaptability allows the plant to survive in a wide variety of habitats and may contribute to its overall resilience as a species.

In addition to its ecological importance, the Frog Orchid also has cultural significance in some regions. For example, in Norway, the plant is known as "froskeblomst," which means "frog flower," and is considered a symbol of spring and new beginnings. In some parts of Europe, the plant has also been used in traditional medicine for its astringent and antiseptic properties.

Another interesting aspect of the Frog Orchid is its relationship with ants. The plant produces a sweet nectar that is attractive to ants, which in turn help to protect the plant from herbivores and other insects that might damage it. This relationship is an example of mutualism, in which both the plant and the ants benefit from their association.

Interestingly, the Frog Orchid has also been found to produce a chemical compound that mimics the scent of the ant's alarm pheromone. This can help to deter herbivores from eating the plant by tricking them into thinking that there is danger nearby.

In addition to its ecological relationships, the Frog Orchid also has a fascinating history of medicinal use. In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including asthma, bronchitis, and digestive disorders. It has also been used in European herbal medicine as a treatment for wounds, skin infections, and digestive issues.

While more research is needed to fully understand the medicinal properties of the Frog Orchid, its historical use in traditional medicine highlights the potential value of plant species in providing new treatments and therapies for human health.

Overall, the Frog Orchid is a remarkable plant with a wide range of ecological and cultural significance. Its unique appearance, adaptability, and complex relationships with other organisms make it a valuable species to study and protect. By working to conserve the habitats where the Frog Orchid grows and better understanding its biology and medicinal properties, we can help to ensure its continued survival and the health of the ecosystems it supports.

25 Intriguing Facts about the Frog Orchid

  1. The frog orchid (Coeloglossum viride) is a species of orchid native to Europe, Asia, and North America.
  2. It is also known as the long-bracted orchid or green-flowered orchid.
  3. The frog orchid gets its name from its frog-like appearance, with its green flowers resembling the head of a frog.
  4. The plant typically grows to a height of 10-30 cm.
  5. The leaves of the frog orchid are basal and form a rosette at the base of the stem.
  6. The flowers of the frog orchid are green, sometimes tinged with purple or brown, and appear in a loose spike in May to July.
  7. The flower spikes can grow up to 30 cm long.
  8. The frog orchid is a perennial plant, meaning it lives for more than two years.
  9. It grows in a variety of habitats, including meadows, pastures, woodland clearings, and marshy areas.
  10. The frog orchid is often found in calcareous soil, which is rich in calcium carbonate.
  11. It prefers a sunny or partially shaded location.
  12. The frog orchid is pollinated by insects, including bees and butterflies.
  13. The plant produces a sweet nectar to attract pollinators.
  14. The frog orchid has a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, which help it absorb nutrients from the soil.
  15. The frog orchid has been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including kidney and bladder problems.
  16. The plant contains a variety of compounds, including alkaloids and flavonoids, which may have medicinal properties.
  17. The frog orchid is not commonly cultivated as an ornamental plant, but can be grown in a garden with suitable growing conditions.
  18. The plant can be propagated from seed or by dividing the rhizomes.
  19. The frog orchid is not considered to be threatened globally, but it is rare in some parts of its range.
  20. The plant is protected by law in some countries, including the United Kingdom.
  21. The frog orchid has been used as a model organism in scientific research, particularly in the study of mycorrhizal associations.
  22. The plant has also been used in ecological research, particularly in the study of plant-pollinator interactions.
  23. The frog orchid is an important food source for some insects, including the green-veined white butterfly.
  24. The plant is also used as a host by some parasitic wasps.
  25. The frog orchid has been the subject of several poems and literary works.

In summary, the frog orchid is a small, perennial orchid native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is known for its frog-like appearance, with green flowers resembling the head of a frog. The plant grows in a variety of habitats and is pollinated by insects. It has been used in traditional medicine and is protected by law in some countries. The frog orchid has also been used in scientific and ecological research and is an important food source for some insects.

Frog Orchids in the UK

The Frog Orchid (Coeloglossum viride) is a unique and understated wildflower native to the diverse habitats of the UK, including grasslands, meadows, and calcareous soils. Its small, greenish flowers, occasionally tinged with red or brown, bloom from late spring to early summer, often blending into the surrounding vegetation. The orchid's lanceolate to ovate leaves form a basal rosette, providing the necessary energy for its growth and development. The fruit, a slender capsule, releases tiny seeds that are dispersed by the wind, aiding in the plant's propagation. While the Frog Orchid is not known for its edibility or fragrance, it plays a crucial role in maintaining the biodiversity and ecological balance of its natural habitats. Despite its subtle appearance, this orchid is a fascinating component of the UK's flora, contributing to the rich tapestry of wildflowers that flourish across the country.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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